ESCANABA - The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Forest, Minerals and Fire Management Division will hold a public forum Tuesday to review proposed alternatives on the future use of the Escanaba to Hermansville Rail-Trail.
The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. (EDT) at the Bay College Heirman University Center.
The route under consideration, if opened, will link Escanaba directly to Hermansville and provide critical access to the western U.P. This particular system has four variables in the list of recommendations.
In the planning stages since 2007, the "Hermanaba," a tag given to the 23.76 mile project, has the potential for riders to start at a trail head on the U.P. State Fairgrounds in Delta County or in the village of Hermansville in Menominee County with the opposite points as end destinations.
It is part of the Rails-to-Trails program that has been growing across the state since many abandoned railroad grades were turned over to the Michigan Department of Transportation.
The MDOT then allowed the MDNR/FMFM to include the varying segments as part of a strategic plan to some day have a connecting system of trails that would allow long distance travel of ATV/OHV enthusiasts.
Tim Kobasic is outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet Saturday mornings.
Having a designated system would also allow for funding through the trails program, including outright grants through the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund.
The idea has not been without some objection as some land owners with property on either side of the grade questioned their ability to access parcels, especially those involved in agriculture, once the trail system is enacted.
According to MDNR Trail Specialist Ron Yesney, those parcels that already have access will continue as before.
If a new access point is requested, it will come under review and be limited in some regards, following a requirement to keep rail access (potentially) available if the land should revert back to the railroads and again become active. This follows a federal statute.
The MDNR/FMFM Division previously held a public hearing and accepted written testimony on the project and that input enabled them to put together four alternative proposals.
While the project has received strong support from the user community, including the Sportsmen's Off-Road Vehicle Association of Delta County, it recently collected another petition of support from the NORMENCO Sportmen's Club, with 150 signatures added to hundreds collected from SORVA.
There is also a faction of the communities wanting to see the entire stretch remain "non-motorized," sighting concerns of past abuses of the grade. With those points of consideration included, the planning of the final four alternatives of the "Hermanaba" has taken those issues under consideration:
* Motorized vehicles greater than 62 inches in width should be prohibited to help alleviate illegal dumping of refuse with full size vehicles while still permitting side-by-side use.
* Hunting on the corridor should be prohibited in response to public concerns.
* Stay on trail signs would be placed adjacent to open areas along the corridor to prevent unlawful operation and trespassing.
* Informative and stay on trail signs would be placed along the Michigan State University Experimental Forest.
* Individual concerns will be addressed as received once a plan of implementation is established.
* The possibility exists to establish a multi-use trail on the undeveloped segment of state owned Felch Grade and develop a multi-use trailhead just north of U.S. Highway 2-41 on state owned land.
As with all the other designated ATV/OHV trail systems throughout the Upper Peninsula, the "Hermanaba" would be adopted by local clubs for maintenance and repair.
Anyone unable to attend the public meeting who would like to provide comments may do so in writing until May 5, 2011. Written comments should be sent to: Department of Natural Resources, 6833 Hwy 2,41 & M35, Gladstone, 49837, Attn: Eric W. Thompson, Unit Manager.
Comments will also be received electronically at DNR-RTS@michigan.gov.
Once adopted, the final proposal for the "Hermanaba" is expected to take two to three years to be implemented.
Future planning for the inter-connection of existing trail systems in Delta County include the Escanaba to Gladstone corridor, with final connection at a point in Rapid River that would tie in with the 2,200 mile network of trails and routes within the Hiawatha National Forest.